OFN Roadtrip, Eastern Oregon

Riki Saltzman

From August 4-7, 2017, I had the privilege of traveling about a thousand miles through eastern Oregon—to Burns, Frenchglen, Baker City, Pendleton, and back through the Gorge. I’m always struck by the vastness of our state, its overwhelming beauty, and the diversity of its terrain and eco-systems. In a few hundred miles, I passed through many national forests, mountains (Cascades, Blue, and Steen), high desert, sage prairie, great basin, hot springs, some surprising wetlands, and lava beds. A smoky haze hung over all, due to the fires raging throughout the state.

What brought me out of Eugene was the opportunity to attend two of a series of folklife programs that Four Rivers Cultural Center (Ontario) put together with cultural partners in Harney and Baker Counties.

My family and I had a long drive Friday night, broken up by a wonderful dinner at Diego’s Spirited Kitchen in Redmond. Douglas Manger, one of OFN’s contract folklorists, introduced me to Diego’s during his folklife survey fieldwork in 2016. It’s been a staff favorite ever since, especially the tacos de pescado with sautéed halibut.

We arrived in Burns that evening, and the next morning my family and I set off for Frenchglen and the traditional craft demonstrations that Josh Chrysler, Four Rivers staff folklorist, had planned alongside the Frenchglen Jamboree taking place at the Frenchglen Hotel State Heritage Site. Read about the full scope of Eastern Oregon Folklife programs that Chrysler designed elsewhere in this newsletter.

An hour’s journey through the mostly arid basins, along twists and turns, and over dramatic basalt ridges led us to Frenchglen, located on the edge of the Steens Mountain. Frenchglen Jamboree, complete with a youth rodeo, included barrel racing, roping, and a spoon race as well as a Dutch oven dessert cook off, and live music. The folklife demonstrations took place on the side lawn at the Frenchglen Hotel, which was also hosting a cribbage match and a barbeque dinner.




Under shady tents, we visited with Native beadworker, cradleboard, and basket weaver Sara Barton; rawhide braider Dan Fowler; and leather worker John O’Connor of the Steens Back Country Horsemen. Both Barton and Fowler are part of OFN’s Culture Keepers Roster.


Barton, who is of Mono Lake Paiute and Yosemite Miwuk heritage, lives at the Burns Paiute reservation, where she makes and teaches folks how to make cradleboards for babies of different ages and sizes as well as a variety of baskets.


Dan Fowler, a long-time rancher and cowboy, is known throughout the region for his fine rawhide braiding. Each of the buttons—the intricately woven bumps on mecates, lariats, and comals—take hours to complete.

I was particularly charmed by the miniature reins that he had displayed, which are about 1/6 scale.

O’Connor (on Fowler’s right), also a rancher and horseman, makes a variety of leather vests. Both he and Fowler regaled everyone with stories about horses (Fowler’s favorite “Old Strawberry”), rattlesnake dens, and more.

We also took a few breaks to sample the tasty food at the Hotel; the homemade raspberry crisp was a perfect ending to a meal of salads, burgers, and fries.

After a full day in Frenchglen, we traveled through the stunning lava beds of Diamond Craters and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge wetlands to Crystal Crane Hot Springs. Soaking in the seven-foot deep hot springs pond, which hovers around 100 degrees, amidst the quiet, star-filled evening, was a true Oregon experience.

But before winding down, we drove back into Burns for the annual Burns Paiute powwow at the Harney County Fairgrounds. There we enjoyed a variety of traditional powwow dancers and their stunning, hand-crafted regalia. I found out later that some of the dancers had been part of OFN’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, which funded Burns Paiute elders, Betty Hawley, Myra Peck, Phillis Miller, and Ruth Lewis, to teach moccasin making to children ranging in age from 3 to 6.

One of the benefits of attending a powwow is the yummy food. While we missed out on the meat and potato stuffed frybread, we did inhale some “rez dogs” (a hotdog wrapped in frybread dough and deep fried) as well as chili rez dogs (a rez dog topped with chili, cheese, and condiments).

As we strolled around the powwow grounds, we even found some Oregon Ducks.

The next day, we enjoyed a morning soak in the hot springs before a filling breakfast at Ed’s Fast Break & Grille at the edge of Burns.

After breakfast, we journeyed north and east through the dramatic terrain of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness as we made our way to Baker City and a performance and community conversation with Janet Komoto and the Kawa Taiko Drummers of Ontario, Oregon.

Komoto and her Taiko drummers have long been a mainstay of eastern Oregon’s performing arts circuit. With the able assistance of Josh Chrysler, this traditional Japanese drum group performed and engaged with a crowd of about 100 on Sunday afternoon, August 6, at Geiser Pollman Park. In 2000, several members of Ontario’s Japanese American community came together to practice the traditional Japanese art of taiko. Komoto became part student, teacher, and group leader. Thanks to Base Camp Baker for posting this video of the Kawa Taiko Drummers.

These programs were made possible by the Four Rivers Cultural Center, the Harney County Cultural Coalition, Crossroads Carnegie Arts Center, the Oregon Folklife Network, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Josh Chrysler, Staff Folklorist at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, developed this series of programs and exhibits that celebrate the traditional culture and folklife of eastern Oregon.


Staff Spotlight: 2017 Graduate Folklore Fellow, Alina Mansfield

Each year, with funding from the University of Oregon’s academic Folklore Program, OFN employs a recent graduate of their masters degree program for one term, providing paid employment, job experience and resume enhancement while the emerging professional seeks permanent employment. OFN was pleased to retain former Graduate Employee, Alina Mansfield, as this Summer’s Graduate Folklore Fellow. Mansfield recently helped write, produce and distribute our latest publication, Oregon Traditional Arts Apprenticeships Master Artists: 2012-2016 and has been actively updating OFN’s growing Oregon Culture Keeper’s Roster with traditional artists selected from our Gorge, Eastern Oregon and Portland/Metro folklife surveys.

Mansfield has a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, where she designed her own Folklore and Mythology major. A contributor to the Encyclopedia of Women’s Folklore and Folklife, Mansfield is currently researching Mardi Gras traditions in Mobile, Alabama and Biloxi, Mississippi. For her Master’s Terminal’s Project, she completed a documentary folklore film entitled, “To Catch a Crown: Mardi Gras in Biloxi.”



2017 Regional Collaborative Partnership Awards

Makaela Kroin

OFN is pleased to share news about our 2017 Regional Collaborative Partnerships (RCPs). RCPs provide funding for local programs that bring together culture keepers and presenting organizations in regions where OFN has completed fieldwork for our multi-year statewide folklife survey. RCPs foster collaborations between folk and traditional artists and local organizations and also raise awareness about the Oregon Culture Keepers Roster – a programming resource for arts organizations, museums, libraries, parks, schools, and other organizations.

2017’s RCPs targeted the Columbia River Gorge and Northeastern Oregon regions surveyed in 2015. They reflect collaborations with the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, Radio Tierra, and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.

  • The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum is expanding an ongoing initiative to include more Native American voices. The Center will showcase a variety of rostered Native artists, storytellers, and performers for programs throughout the summer.
  • Radio Tierra will feature Mariachi Los Temerosos, Pepe y Los Amigos de la Sierra, and the Matthews Family Gospel Singers for Radio Tierra’s live broadcast on July 3, 2017 for the annual Mayors’ Independence Eve Celebration. The towns of Hood River, Bingen, and White Salmon come together each year for this celebration of diversity and community.
  • Tamástslikt Cultural Institute will bring culture keepers closely associated with the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla to share stories and songs about Celilo Falls in public program on May 31, 2017 to enhance Tamástslikt Cultural Institute’s exhibit, “Celilo: Progress vs. Protest.”

Funding for these partnerships comes from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission.


OFN Prepares the Next generation of Public Folklorists

Emily Hartlerode

OFN welcomes four Spring interns and volunteers this term. Being situated at a University enables OFN to provide students with valuable professional experience in public folklife research methods and public programming. Please welcome:

Folklore master’s candidate Sarah Fisher’s internship involves learning about event marketing. Fisher has a research interest in festival productions engineered by performing arts groups.  She has volunteered and performed with cultural festival productions since she was 12 years old.

As an OFN intern, Jes Sokolowski (Nonprofit Management master’s candidate) is exploring cultural organization operations and programming. Her research interests are in cultural policy, cultural economics, and the relationship between creativity and risk taking. Her passion for both art and numbers has set her on a mission to create aesthetically pleasing spreadsheets for the numerically averse. Her favorite things include waffles, Marlene Dietrich’s costumes, and board games.

For her OFN internship, Hillary Tully (Folklore master’s candidate) is preparing a National Heritage Fellowship nomination. This National Endowment for the Arts award is the highest honor an American folk and traditional artist can achieve. Tully brings her research interest in reproductive health narratives, and a wry sense of humor. She is an “internal zoo of fascinating animal facts,” and also claims to be an unofficial spokesperson for Prego Spaghetti Sauce.

Augustine Beard (Honors College bachelor’s candidate in History and Environmental Science) is volunteering at OFN to learn more about careers in heritage and arts administration. Before coming to the University of Oregon, he was in a rock band for five years and produced two albums. Augustine also was just one of 5 University of Oregon undergraduates to receive a 2017 undergraduate research award for an outstanding paper.


2017 Community Conversation, Vernonia, Oregon

Makaela Kroin

On Tuesday, May 2nd, a crowd of people packed the Vernonia Public Library to join in a community conversation with retired timbermen Don Webb and Fred Heller. The event was one of a series of public presentations that wrapped up OFN’s folklife survey of the Portland Metro Area. Folklorist, Makaela Kroin, launched the conversation asking Webb and Heller to talk about their families’ long histories in the timber industry. But soon, the multi-generational audience of community members were engaging the men with their own questions. The attendance and enthusiasm at this event demonstrates the deep significance of Vernonia’s logging heritage. Many thanks go to Shannon Romtvedt of the Vernonia Public Library, Scott Laird of the Vernonia Voice, and Tobie Finzel of the Vernonia Pioneer Museum for their support of the program, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts for funding our regional folklife surveys.

“PDX Culture Keepers Festival”: Check out our Mini-Festival of Folk Artists and Performers at the Oregon Historical Society

Makaela Kroin

OHS has a festive afternoon planned for June 11th, 2017, 2-4 pm. Five featured Portland Metro Area folk artists will perform or demonstrate a variety of cultural traditions, from traditional Kenyan cooking techniques to Estonian folk dance. Rounding out the program will be interactive demonstrations of Oaxacan weaving, Coquille/Coos canoe paddle carving, and intricately woven nautical rope mats. The featured artists were identified by fieldworkers Nancy Nusz, Douglas Manger, and Makaela Kroin during the 2016 Portland Metro Folklife Survey.

This free, family-friendly open-house event is brought to you by the Oregon Folklife Network and is part of the Oregon Historical Society’s “Second Sunday” series.

Featured artists include:

Francisco Bautista is a fourth-generation weaver from Teotitlán del Valle, a village near Oaxaca City, Mexico, known for its weaving tradition. Bautista, who sells his stunning hand-loomed rugs at Portland’s Saturday Market, will show how he weaves colorful designs on his five-foot loom. He’ll also talk about his family’s traditional dyes and their natural sources.

Dennis Best, a retired US Coast Guard Chief Officer and Surfman, travels the world in his sailboat and makes traditional nautical rope mats of manila rope and seine net twine. Best will demonstrate his knotting techniques and invites guests to tie a few themselves.

Wambui Machua, Kenyan chef and business owner, teaches African cooking classes, caters, sells food at markets, and funds charitable projects through her Beaverton-based business, Spice of Africa. Machua will prepare typical Kenyan dishes including ugali, a corn meal based dish, and samosas.

Tulehoidjad, Portland’s Estonian folk dance troupe, has kept the Estonian language, dances, and other Baltic traditions alive for four generations in Oregon. Liina Teose leads the troupe that her mother, Estonian immigrant Lehti Merilo, founded in 1950. Both the adult and youth troupes will perform, and visitors are invited to learn some steps and join in!

Shirod Younker (Upper Coquille and Miluk Coos), is one of the keepers of his Tribe’s cultural knowledge.  A recipient of the 2017 Native Arts and Culture Foundation’s Mentor Artist Fellowship, he manages the only pre-college artists-in-residence program for Native American teens in the United States. Younker will demonstrate his canoe paddle carving and discuss the interconnectedness between spiritual wisdom and Native art aesthetics.

This event is free and open to the public—all ages are welcome—no registration required. The Oregon Historical Society is located at 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR 97205.

For more information about the Oregon Historical Society, visit http://www.ohs.org/.

This event is the culmination of the Oregon Folklife Network’s Portland Metro folklife survey, the fourth in a series of regional surveys to identify and document folk and traditional artists in Oregon. The survey was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works, Folk & Traditional Arts Program.

OFN is administered by the University of Oregon and is supported in part by grants from the Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

To join the Twitter conversation about this event, please use #Oregonfolk. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov. Follow OFN on Twitter @OregonFolklife and follow us on Facebook at Oregon Folklife Network.

2017 Association of Western States Folklorists Society’s Annual Meeting

Brad McMullen

From April 20th-22nd, the Oregon Folklife Network hosted the annual Association of Western States Folklorists meeting. This gathering brings together public folklorists throughout the American West to discuss their current work and learn new skills. This year was especially exciting because the Western States Folklore Society (WSFS) also had its annual conference in Eugene, a planned convergence that encouraged public and academic folklorists to come together and share ideas.

AWSF kicked off with a cultural heritage tour of Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. The tour was loosely organized around the impacts of gentrification for community arts and craft businesses and residents. At Falling Sky Delicatessen, the group enjoyed generous and delicious tastes of and tips about fermented foods. Chair of the Whiteaker Community Council, Sam Hahn, led folks on walking tour of the neighborhood and visit to Blairally Vintage Arcade, where our visiting folklorists learned about pinball culture and the restoration of old pinball machines. Next, the group popped in to Thinking Tree Spirits, a newly opened distillery where a tour of the distillation facilities and samples of craft vodka and gin cocktails were on the menu. A visit with Equiano Coffee’s owner/coffee roaster, Okon Udosenata, provided an insider’s view of artisanal coffee roasting plus some aromatic sips Chris Paulson’s fused glass studio entranced everyone with its beautiful displays and Paulson’s stories about his work. Our final stop was at Ninkasi Brewing, where the group learned about the “brewshed” and Ninkasi’s history in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

Our joint AWSF and WSFS conferences came together at the start with a memorial screening of Carol Spellman’s For the Love of the Tune: Irish Women and Traditional Music and moving tributes to Carol and her work. Next on the agenda was a joint session on the Future of Folklore, which OFN executive director, Riki Saltzman, facilitated. With speakers from as far as American Folklife Center in Washington D.C., and as local as Native storyteller Patricia Whereat Phillips, the panel discussed where the field of folklore is going and how to best prepare folklorists for the future. After lunch, a panel of alumni from the University of Oregon’s Folklore graduate program shared ways in which they applied their folklore skills in a variety of workplace settings. Attendees were happy to see how people are both engaging with and expanding the field of folklore. UO librarian Nathan Georgitis provided an overview of best practices and a rundown of useful tools for managing a folklore archive.

Highlights from the final day of the conference included Shirod Younker (Coquille/Miluk Coos), who provided an in-depth and engaging presentation on Native perspectives on and contemporary programming in traditional arts. Younker also shared some of his own art and spoke about his involvement with the A. Susana Santos’ Journeys in Creativity Program at Oregon College of Art and Craft. In another session, OFN’s Lyle Murphy and Indiana University’s Kelly Totten discussed their work with incarcerated populations. AWSF closed with Bodeene Amyot’s workshop on photographic skills, which was filled with great examples and tips for how to best use your camera to take fantastic photographs. Amyot is a gifted photographer and visual storyteller.

The meeting created critical time for folklorists to engage with each other on projects and issues all share in common and to strategize about growth and sustainability in our field. OFN is grateful for funding from UO’s Academic Affairs and the UO Folklore Program as well as the American Folklore Society’s Professional Award.

Books! Books! OFN New Releases

Alina Mansfield

We are pleased to announce the release of Oregon Folklife Network’s first publication: Culture Keepers of Eastern Oregon. In the Spring of 2016, Folklorists Douglas Manger and Joseph O’Connell visited communities throughout the Eastern Oregon region and interviewed cowboys, ranchers, quilters, water witchers, stone masons, old time musicians, community poets, fly tiers, fishing guides and more. This folklife survey into the “deep west” of Eastern Oregon, was made possible thanks to generous funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works, and the Oregon Historical Society.

Culture Keepers of Eastern Oregon features over 40 photographs and biographies of traditional artists throughout the Eastern Oregon counties of Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler. Douglas Manger explains, “Our effort was to record unique culture keepers at their home place, particularly those held in close esteem for the craft they are upholding, their striving for excellence, their giving back while teaching others.” Joseph O’Connell notes, “Our conversations explored how broad traditions, like rodeo sports or cowboy poetry, take on new dimensions in local places.”

Keep an eye out this summer for our upcoming publication, Oregon Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Master Artists: 2012-2016, which will highlight the 23 master artist teams who received TAAP awards from 2012-2016. This photo essay provides a tantalizing glimpse into Oregon’s cultural traditions and the artists who make them thrive.